Five Senses coffee. 34 Pitt St, Mortdale. For many years there has been a massive void on Sydney’s Blue railway line in terms of great coffee. There are plenty of places with espresso machines, and no shortage of places with good breakfast options around, but very few that hit the ball out of the park – this is starting to change with Swallow Coffee Traders and Barista Haus in Rockdale, and with Short Black Panther in Mortdale (not to be confused with Short Black in Penshurst).
With all the glass in the front window, it’s no wonder there is so much daylight in side, and combined with the high ceilings there’s a real sense of space. There’s an eclectic range of different chairs and tables, giving the place a rustic character, and the cardboard moose heads and little golden books turned menus are a homey touch.
Coffee-wise, though, it’s serious equipment all the way: Synesso espresso machine and Mazza grinders. I’ve been back three times, and the coffee is consistently good. The espresso has good crema, the milk work is good, and the cold batch brew is light, without too much of a caffeine hit.
The pastries and custom-baked goods (someone arrives with a tray of some kind of baked goods on one of my visits), but there’s a definite expertise with flavours in the rest of the menu. Above, the avocado feta and mint on toast ($8) – hopefully if survives through to the next iteration of the menu.
Short Black Panther on Facebook
Five Senses Coffee. 21 Wentworth St, Parramatta. This came to my attention as the winner of the SMH Good Cafe Guide awards 2013 (disclosure: I was paid to write some reviews in that guide, but had been buying my own copy for a few years – it’s a really useful guidebook). Only open on weekdays, I had to wait until I had a day of annual leave before making the journey, but I’m very glad I did.
It was a bit chilly inside on the day we visited, so we had a table out in the sun, tried the food, the decaf, the cold drip, and even the single origin. The food is excellent, and the coffee is beyond my skill as a taster to fault. Service was friendly, knowledgable and ever helpful. Deserves its reputation.
Parramatta (at least during the week) is finally a place where a decent coffee can be found.
Official website: http://circaespresso.com.au/
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Five Senses coffee. 27 Abercrombie St, Chippendale. A coworker put me onto this place – I think I’d walked past and not noticed it at all (there’s not much of a street presence), but it’s worth seeking out.
The cafe is filled with furniture sourced from the surrounding area – there’s lots of furniture to be reclaimed, and just need a bit of work to bring them up to a usable standard.
The menus are on chalkboards around the place – lots of colour, and an elegant handwriting style. The menu varies based on what kind of produce is available – there’s an emphasis on sustainability.
There’s plenty of natural light coming in through the windows: a selection of music washes across the space, drowning out the noise of the traffic, but not overwhelming: it’s easy to have a conversation here if you need to. For me, it’s a place to get some work done, away from distractions, but there’s wifi available if you want it.
Their decaf is really good. Made with a lot of care in the relatively small kitchen. Also worth a try is their chai – it’s one made in the Blue Mountains called Sticky Chai.
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Five Senses coffee. 85 Dunning Ave, Rosebery – not much of a street frontage – you need to head through the arch to be able to find your way into here, but it’s an enormous place: there’s a furniture and toy store attached too.
If lunching in a converted warehouse appeals, this is one of the better places to do so.
Pepesaya butter is there in abundance, and large slices of bread ($12 per loaf to take away). The food here is expensive, to say the least, but it’s of an excellent quality. The pork belly is fantastic, and the salads are really well balanced, with rich flavours.
There’s no shortage of coffee grinders here, and – while the ordering process is a little unclear to new visitors – they will bring the coffee to your table, and the babycinos are free.
The details are what makes the place: the sugar cubes are rough-hewn and sitting in open jars on the table.
Coffee is good: the decaf is well made, and they know their way around the milk preparation.
Kitchen by mike on facebook
Five senses coffee (Crompton Rd blend). 6/12 Wharf street, Forster. Head far enough out of Sydney, and it’s a safe bet that you can despair of finding a good cup of coffee – pass the F3 to Sydney’s north, and your standards immediately lower. So imagine my surprise when driving through Forster when I see a cafe that looks like it would fit comfortably on the streets of Sydney.
Step inside, and it’s a place crowded with options – a range of 12 inch pizzas, a broad range of breakfast and lunch options, and some delicious-looking cakes and slices.
The menu board is really playful in its style, but somehow the space isn’t intimidating or hipster – families with kids and the full spectrum of age ranges are comfortable here, happy to enjoy the coffee, or a freshly poured beer on tap (tartt is licensed).
They’re family-friendly – high chairs are available, and the babycino was well received.
The coffee is the real winner here. The decaf lattes are really good – worth a visit just for that, but it’s the ability to have a serious conversation about coffee that I really enjoyed. These guys are trying to bring serious coffee to a community that isn’t used to it – it was possible to see owner Michael’s relief when I was able to articulate the difference between an espresso and a double ristretto! The need to drive back to Sydney in a single day made me break my normal decaf habit and try a single origin – an Indian Veer Attikan. It was just as described, a fantastic, well made double ristretto that made the next few hundred kilometres fly by.
A gentle walk from the Forster-Tuncurry bridge, this is a must-visit if you’re in the area.
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Five senses coffee (their own blend). 83 Foveaux St, Surry Hills. It’s been over two years since I last reviewed this place, and so when I received a couple of emails from the cafe about the changes that had taken place there, I felt I had to return to see what had happened. Inside, the place looks much as I remember it, but their menu has improved, and their coffee – wow!
A set of shelves behind the coffee-making area of the cafe show off a rich variety of tools for brewing coffee, and a blackboard leaning against the coffee machine talks about the single origin of the day: clearly they are serious about every aspect of their coffee making.
The decaf is really great: it’s sweet, with a hint of vanilla. Certainly holds its head high in Surry Hills, if not in Sydney.
The food menu is creative, too: there’s a $25 breakfast tasting plate (for two people) that I’m hoping to try someday (let me know if you’d like to come with me), but on this particular day, I try the scrambled egg muffin with basil and parmesan: some great flavours, and a level of creativity above the basic bacon-and-egg roll that is more common on a breakfast menu.
If you find yourself at Central station with some time to spare, make the journey up here: you won’t be disappointed.
Five senses coffee. 175 Glebe Point Rd. With a rustic interior: tiles and tabletops in maroon, walls in yellow and blue, this place still manages to maintain a sense of the present day. A small courtyard out the back provides some solace from Glebe Point Rd, and there’s a high chair and changing facilities if you have a small child with you.
Coffee is roasted for elizabeth’s by five senses coffee in Melbourne, and they’re running three grinders – one for decaf, one for the house blend, and one for an Ethiopian Harrar.
The decaf is really good: sweet and earthy, with some notes of cream. Not the cheapest place in Glebe, but one that shows commitment to quality in food and drink alike.
Links: Facebook Page for the cafe and its Official website.